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Chemistry Senior Thesis Frequently Asked Questions

What course or courses do I need to register for?

You are expected to take 9 credits of CHEM493 Senior Research Project during your senior year. Most students sign up for 3 credits in each of the fall, winter and spring terms.

How much time do I need to spend on my research project?

It is expected that you spend 3 hours/week for each credit of CHEM493 for which you register. So, 9 hours/week of laboratory/research effort is expected if you sign up for 3 credits. Most faculty would suggest that you schedule these hours in large blocks (at least 3 hours on any day) to use your time most efficiently.

Will I get a grade each term?

CHEM493 does not have an "in progress" option, so you will usually get a grade each term. Even if you have not "finished" your research project, your adviser will grade you on the effort you are putting in towards completing the project. Some faculty members prefer instead to give an INC until the project is finished. Be sure to ask the faculty member you decide to work with about how they will handle the grading so there are no surprises.

What faculty are available for senior research?

With respect to senior research, technically all faculty are available. You will need to work out an individualized project with the faculty member with whom you choose to conduct research.

How do I choose a research adviser or research project?

To find an area of research you are interested in, the first suggestion is to look at the individual faculty profiles. To further help you choose, the department runs a "faculty mini-symposia" series early in the Fall Quarter. The schedule can be found on the Seminars Page. Each faculty member who participates will present a 10-minute talk about their current research. You should then schedule a one-on-one meeting with the faculty member whose work interests you to explore details about possible projects. Once you find a project that interests you and determine an individualized project with the faculty member, you then start your research. The sooner you get started in the fall, the more you'll be able to accomplish. Do not rush the process though – you are making a big commitment of time and effort to this, so you want to be sure its right.

Will I be working only with the faculty member I choose?

Depending on the faculty member, you may work directly with them, or possibly with a post-doctoral associate, a graduate student or other undergraduate students in that faculty members' research group.

Do I have to write a report at the end?

Yes, all students are required to produce a written report on the research they have accomplished. Please see the Research Report Guidelines, written by the American Chemical Society Committee on Professional Training for details on writing the report. Honors students in the department are expected to write up the report in the form of a senior thesis.

Can I choose an adviser and project outside the chemistry department?

Yes, you can work for a faculty member in another department, but the project you are involved in must be chemically oriented. While you will work directly with this faculty member, you must select a faculty member in the chemistry department as your departmental research adviser. We suggest you find a chemistry faculty member who collaborates with the external faculty member, or at least someone whose research area is similar. You are still expected to produce a report at the end.

Do I have to work with one faculty member for all 9 credits of CHEM493?

No, you may switch projects and faculty advisers if you choose, although you will likely have a better experience if you work on a single project for a more extended period of time.

I've worked for a faculty member taking CHEM497 Research since I was a sophomore. Can I do my senior research with the same person?

It's great that you started research early in your career. You can continue to work for the same faculty member for your senior research, or switch to another adviser to gain experience in another area of chemistry.

My project is working really well, can I work more than the required 3 hours / week per credit hour?

Absolutely! Most faculty members would be delighted if you spent additional time in the lab, particularly if the project is going well. You may also sign up for additional research credits (CHEM497) if your schedule allows.

I hear there are awards for doing research as an undergraduate?

There are a number of departmental awards given out in the spring term (usually as part of the College of Arts & Sciences Honors Day) where participation in undergraduate research is a major factor. Several even involve cash prizes that are awarded on the basis of a research paper competition. Details for applying for these awards are usually posted on the chemistry website near the end of winter term.

Who should I contact if I have other questions?

You should contact your chemistry department academic adviser. A list of the faculty advisers can be found at the Undergraduate Advisers page.